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Pursuing Education, or Just Credentials?

Pursuing Education, or Just Credentials?

Education, rightly understood, shouldn’t start with the end goal of a degree in mind. It should start with the vision of who you want to become and how your educational journey will form you into a particular kind of person. It’s about truth, goodness, beauty. It’s about cultivating a heart of wisdom, not just a mind that can pass the tests or turn in the reports. 

The digital age has led to an explosion of educational opportunities. You can stream online courses, attend all your classes in short bursts of time, join a seminary’s extension center, work through a program with a cohort, do an independent study, or attend all your classes on campus and become part of the school’s community. These approaches have strengths and weaknesses, and I’ve experienced all of them at one point or another in my educational journey.

In an era with so many choices, the temptation is to think of one’s education in terms of checking off boxes on the way to a degree. You need a particular set of credentials on your résumé, and so you fulfill the requirements the school gives you and eventually, you receive the degree you want. According to a recent study by Barna, most evangelicals view education in terms of career:

  • Evangelicals are more likely than people of no faith to say main purpose of education is career prep and increased financial opportunity.

  • Only 10 percent of evangelicals see college in terms of development of moral character—3 percent lower than those of “no faith.” Only 9 percent believe college should encourage spiritual growth.

Not surprisingly, when people ask me about furthering their education, they’re wondering about how to get the credentials they need in a short amount of time, with as little disruption to their lives as possible. They’re looking for answers, but I give them different questions.

Heart of Wisdom

An approach to education that focuses primarily on credentials and convenience is superficial and, let’s face it, boring. It’s all about hoops to jump through to pass classes and get a degree.

The oft-asked question concerning credentials is: What degree do I need so I can do what I want to do? That’s the wrong question. The better question is, What kind of person do I want to become? It’s not about your résumé, but your heart. It’s not about knowledge alone, but wisdom.

Education, rightly understood, shouldn’t start with the end goal of a degree in mind.

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